Fall trout fishing time is here.
If you’re a stocked trout fisherman, take a moment or two in the next few weeks and offer thanks for white-tailed deer.
After all, they’re providing you with a gift.
Springtime trout fishing, when waters are freshly filled with hatchery fish, is a time of crowds. If you go where the fish are, you expect company. Oftentimes, lots of it.
Opening day trout in particular draw fishermen like Black Friday deals draw shoppers. That’s just the nature of the game.
Then there’s autumn.
Trout get stocked then, too. The numbers aren’t the same, of course – we’re talking a fraction of the annual total – but from Pennsylvania to Maryland and states beyond, fresh fish are going out right about now.
And they’re usually a bit bigger on average than springtime fish, courtesy of having spent a few more months being babied in captivity.
Yet few people take advantage of all that.
Indeed, fall trout fishing is a time of relative solitude. Stream and lake banks once elbow to elbow with anglers now see individuals here and there. Oh, there are clusters of people still, in spots, but on a much smaller scale.
Deer are a big part of the reason why, as many of the people so eager to cast a line in April are now out looking for venison and antlers, and will be for weeks.
So appreciate those deer for that.
Then, go catch some fish. Some of the best trout fishing in months is here.
Falling water temperatures, a nature-wide rush to feed up in preparation for winter and those fresh fish all set the stage for what can be some fast action.
Bait can be as effective this time of year as ever. In lakes, when fishing on the bottom or under a bobber, the usual suspects – paste baits, maggots, meal worms, butter worms, red worms and the like – all work.
Don’t be afraid to go a little bigger, though. Sometimes – on streams especially – a lively nightcrawler on a light wire hook works well. If the water is low and clear, rig the crawler weightless and let it drift on a tight line with the current.
They work especially well after a rain, which naturally washes worms into the water.
If you prefer to fish artificial lures, in-line spinners are a good choice. Which ones to fish depends, again, on water conditions.
On deeper, slower moving waters, go with a heavier model. In shallower water, go lighter.
On lakes, experiment until you find one heavy enough to get near the bottom without hanging up. A few split shot 12 to 18 inches up your line helps get the lure in the right spot.
Don’t overlook mid-sized stickbaits and floating minnow crankbaits, though. Sometimes thought of as bait for bass only, minnow-imitating lures catch trout that have held over – and gotten used to eating bigger baitfish that have themselves grown over summer – as well as larger, freshly-stocked trout.
A variety of flies work, too, from the odd to the classic.
Worm patterns – yes, flies that look like red worms – catch trout, even if they’re not the kind of thing that inspire awe at the tying bench. Egg patterns are often equally effective.
Try both of those in size 8 or so.
Pheasant tail nymphs, caddisflies, ants, beetles, and minnows patterns, like the Clouser minnow, are good, too.
Wooly buggers and streamers have their place, as well. They can be especially effective when, with a light weight added, they get you to the bottom of deeper pools and holes.
With flies especially, leaves on the water can be a problem, though, so pay attention to your drift. Your presentation won’t look natural if your line is sweeping handfuls of leaves downstream with it.
But know the fish are out there.
Now, they’re may not be a lot of folks around to take your picture if and when you land a big fall trout on any of those baits, lures or flies. You may have to take a selfie and tell tales of your triumphs without benefit of a witness.
But you’ll be catching fish, or at least have the opportunity to, at a beautiful time of year, without overcrowding.
Thanks to those deer, indeed.
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